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December 15, 2006

Future Shock

Philadelphia Phillies Top Ten Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Excellent Prospects
None
Very Good Prospects
1. Carlos Carrasco, rhp
2. Kyle Drabek, rhp
Good Prospects
3. Michael Bourn, of
4. Josh Outman, lhp
5. J.A. Happ, lhp
Average Prospects
6. Matt Maloney, lhp
7. Adrian Cardenas, ss
8. D'Arby Myers, cf
9. Scott Mathieson, rhp
10. Greg Golson, cf

1. Carlos Carrasco, rhp
DOB: 3/21/87
Height/Weight: 6-3/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Signed: Venezuela, 2003
What He Did in 2006: 2.26 ERA at Low A (159.1-103-65-159)
The Good: Long, skinny Venezuelan cruised through the South Atlantic League in his second try, limiting batters to a .182 average. He throws an 89-94 mph fastball with good movement and backs it up with a changeup that is the best in the system now that Cole Hamels has graduated to the big leagues. Curveball made great strides in 2006, improving from a show-me pitch to a usable offering.
The Bad: Carrasco's control of his secondary pitches comes and goes. Scouts love the projection, and he'll need to fill it as he moves up because he is not a pure power pitcher yet, but approaches the game like one.
The Irrelevant: Batters facing Carrasco with the bases loaded in 2006 went 1-for-19.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A No. 2 starter.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: High - Carrasco's season was officially a breakout by any measurement, and there's room for more improvements in him. He should find some immediate success in the Florida State League, and could hit Double-A by mid-season.

2. Kyle Drabek, rhp
DOB: 12/8/87
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 1st round, 2006, Texas HS
What He Did in 2006: 7.71 ERA at Rookie Level (23.1-33-11-14)
The Good: Generally considered the top high school righthander in this year's draft, thanks to a mid-90s fastball and a curve that rates right now as a 60-70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Changeup is already a decent offering and should become plus. Excellent athlete who fields his position well, and can hit a little too.
The Bad: Makeup issues abound with teams concerned about his behavior both on and off the field prior to the draft. Drabek's pro debut was as unpredictable as his behavior, with excellent starts being followed by awful ones, and vice-versa.
The Irrelevant: Drabek is the son of former Cy Young winner Doug Drabek, who won 155 games during a 13-year career.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A frontline starter.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Very high - Drabek was considered by some to be the top high school player in the draft, but all of the external issues dropped him to the 18th overall selection. This will either be the steal of the draft or a total bust - it's hard to see a lot of scenarios that are in between.

3. Michael Bourn, cf
DOB: 12/27/82
Height/Weight: 5-11/180
Bats/Throws: L/R
Draft: 4th round, 2003, University of Houston
What He Did in 2006: .274/.350/.365 at AA (361 PA); .283/.368/.428 (174 PA); .125/.222/.125 at MLB (11 PA)
The Good: Prototypical centerfielder/leadoff man who one scout refers to as "Kenny Lofton lite" and has no glaring weaknesses for the type of player he is. Solid hitter who uses the gaps well, as evidenced by nearly 14 triples per 600 at-bats in the minors. Draws walks at a decent clip and has a career stolen base success rate of 85%. Outstanding centerfielder with an arm that as at least average, if not a tick above.
The Bad: Tendency to lose focus on what he does well, leading to high strikeout rates when he tries to drive balls instead of simply making contact. Will likely never put up double-digit home run seasons. Good at many things, great at few.
The Irrelevant: While Bourn hit just five home runs in 2006, two of them were grand slams.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: An everyday centerfielder at the top of the lineup.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low - Bourn will likely begin the year at Triple-A, pending any moves the busy Phillies still make before spring training. He might break in as a bench outfielder and work his way up from there.

4. Josh Outman, lhp
DOB: 9/14/84
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 10th round, 2005, Central Missouri State
What He Did in 2006: 2.95 ERA at Low A (155.1-119-75-161)
The Good: Excellent fastball for a lefthander - sits in the low 90s and touches 94-95 on several occasions every time out. Slider can be an out pitch at times.
The Bad: Outman's command and control are both below average, at times forcing him to pitch solely off his fastball. His changeup is one in name only. Slider has gotten much better since Outman was drafted, but still has a ways to go.
The Irrelevant: Outman's father wrote a book called Over Powering Pitching, which endorses a highly unorthodox delivery style the saves stress on the shoulder and elbow. It's a style Outman used with some success until his college coaches turned him into a real prospect with a more typical delivery.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A power lefty, but maybe one who comes out of the pen.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: High - Southpaws with Outman's velocity are hard to come by, but there are still a lot of things that need to come together. His development will continue in the Florida State League.

5. J.A. Happ, lhp
DOB: 10/19/82
Height/Weight: 6-5/205
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 3rd round, 2004, Northwestern
What He Did in 2006: 2.81 ERA at High A (80-63-19-77); 2.65 ERA at AA (74.2-58-29-81); 1.50 ERA at AAA (6-3-1-4)
The Good: Big lefthander succeeds with finesse style but stuff is much more than fringy. Pounds the strike zone with 88-90 mph fastball, solid slider and excellent changeup. Mixes up his pitches to keep batters off balance and works all four quadrants of the strike zone with the confidence and understanding of a big leaguer.
The Bad: Limited projection, as scout's wonder which pitch he'll be able to depend on when he needs the big out.
The Irrelevant: The history of major league pitchers from Northwestern is a short one, with Jay Hook, an eight-year big leaguer who was in the rotation of the 1962 expansion Mets sitting as the all time leader in wins with a paltry 26.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A back-end starter who keeps his teams in the game.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low - There's no room in the Phillies rotation for 2007, but Happ will start the year at Triple-A, likely make his big league debut at some point during the season, and be pushing for a fulltime job in '08.

6. Matt Maloney, lhp
DOB: 1/16/84
Height/Weight: 6-4/220
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 3rd round, 2005, University of Mississippi
What He Did in 2006: 2.03 ERA at Low A (168.2-120-73-180)
The Good: Take J.A. Happ, make him a year younger and put him in a SEC instead of the Big 10 and you have Maloney. Big, left-handed, mid-to-upper 80s, solid breaking ball, plus changes, mixes pitches, etc. It's the same package.
The Bad: Maloney doesn't throw as many strikes as Happ, and the same concerns about missing bats as he moves up applies here as well.
The Irrelevant: A quick starter, Maloney allowed just two runs and 18 base runners in the first inning this year over 27 starts.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: See Happ, A.J.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Maloney might jump to Double-A in 2007, as he clearly didn't belong in the South Atlantic League last year and has the polish to handle the two-level jump.

7. Adrian Cardenas, ss
DOB: 10/10/87
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: L/R
Draft: 1st round, 2006, Florida HS
What He Did in 2006: .318/.384/.442 at Rookie Level (177 PA)
The Good: Left-handed hitter with excellent bat speed and surprising pop. Decent runner with outstanding instincts; both on the base paths and in the field. Phillies love his makeup on both an attitude level an in his cerebral approach to the game.
The Bad: Cardenas lacks the athleticism to stay at shortstop and the arm for third, limiting him to second base or a corner outfield slot in the future, which limits his projection.
The Irrelevant: Cardenas was a teammate of Washington first-round pick Chris Marrero at Monsignor Pace High School in Florida, the same school that graduated former White Sox starter Alex Fernandez and future one Gio Gonzalez. In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A second baseman who produces out of the No. 2 hole.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: High - Cardenas' pro debut was an eye-opener but like most high school draftees with half a season under their belt, he's still an unproven commodity for the most part.

8. D'Arby Myers, cf
DOB: 12/9/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/175 Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 4th round, 2006, California HS
What He Did in 2006: .313/.353/.430 at Rookie Level (136 PA)
The Good: Pure athlete proved to be a much better baseball player than initially expected, showing surprising hitting skills. Projection is through the roof - power potential is there once his body fills out, and plus-plus speed is already on display, making him a very good centerfielder with a decent arm.
The Bad: A free swinger who needs to tighten his approach and curb a tendency to chase pitches out of the strike zone. Baseball instincts are lacking, and he needs to learn that one can't steal a base on speed alone.
The Irrelevant: Myers is a graduate of Westchester High in Los Angeles, an eclectic school that also gave us Phil Hartman and Manson Family member Squeaky Fromme.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A baseball player - it's hard to say anything more at this point.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Very High - Myers is a very exciting player, and he continued to build on his pro debut as the organization raved about his performance in the instructional league. If he looks this good in spring training, he'll make a run for a full-season assignment, after the Phillies were certain he'd need at least two years of short-season ball when he signed.

9. Scott Mathieson, rhp
DOB: 2/27/84
Height/Weight: 6-3/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 17th round, 2002, Canada HS
What He Did in 2006: 3.21 ERA at AA (92.2-73-29-99); 3.93 ERA at AAA (34.1-26-10-36); 7.47 ERA at MLB (37.1-48-16-28)
The Good: One of the few pure power pitchers in the system, Mathieson's fastball sits at 92-94 mph and touches 97. His slider has the makings of a plus pitch and he gets good arm action and fade on his changeup.
The Bad: Mathieson broke down at the end of the year, requiring Tommy John surgery that will cost him most, if not all of 2007. When he was healthy he was still refining his slider to give him an effective pitch against lefthanders and his control was inconsistent.
The Irrelevant: Mathieson had just three hits in 19 at-bats in 2006, but two of them were home runs.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average - Mathieson struggled during his big league debut but would have competed for a job in next year's spring training if he was healthy. The Phillies hope he returns with no negative effect and can compete for that chance once again by mid-2008.

10. Greg Golson, cf
DOB: 9/17/85
Height/Weight: 6-0/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 1st round, 2004, Texas HS
What He Did in 2006: 220/258/333 at Low A (419 PA); 264/324/472 at High A (174 PA)
The Good: Golson repeated at Low A in 2006 and made no progress, but began to show some signs of life following a challenge promotion to the Florida State League. On pure athleticism, nobody in the Phillies organization matches him, and few players in the minors can equal his potential as a power/speed combination, as Golson is a plus-plus runner with the bat speed and raw strength to hit for power.
The Bad: Golson's hitting approach is non-existent, and his swing mechanics are a mess. He'll try to hit nearly anything, and his swing has a loop in it that prevents the bat from getting through the zone on a single plane.
The Irrelevant: Golson has averaged 20.8 assists per 162 outfield games as a pro.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: It's time to take the superstar ceiling off of Golson's projection, and start hoping for maybe a Mike Cameron type of player.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: High -- Golson will return to the Florida State League, where he'll try to prove that his second-half surge was for real in what is very much a make or break type of season.

The Sleeper

Acquired from the Yankees in the Bobby Abreu deal, teenage catcher Jesus Sanchez has a line-drive approach that should produce for a decent batting average, supplementing one of the top defensive packages of any minor league backstop around, including a quick release and plus-plus arm strength.

The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies 25 Years Old Or Younger (As Of Opening Day 2007)

1. Cole Hamels, lhp
2. Carlos Carrasco, rhp
3. Kyle Drabek, rhp
4. Michael Bourn, of
5. Josh Outman, lhp
6. J.A. Happ, lhp
7. Matt Maloney, lhp
8. Adrian Cardenas, ss
9. D'Arby Myers, cf
10. Scott Mathieson, rhp

The Phillies system is pretty bad and has been for some time now, with Hamels the only addition to this list . . . but what an addition. His injury background will remain a concern until he pitches a 200+ innings season, but anybody who saw him in 2006 knows just how good he can be.

Next: The Pittsburgh Pirates

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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